Please be aware any opinions are my own and are not representative of any North Wales League official, player or club (especially Llandudno CC).
Do Wales have a cricket team?
Imagine this. The Grand Slam rugby team that won the Six Nations earlier this year actually being England AND Wales.
Or the football team that reached the semi-finals of the Euros in 2016, staged in France, actually being England AND Wales.
It is absolutely unthinkable! So why is it okay for the cricket teams to bear this combination?
Wales possesses some of the most fanatical and passionate fans in the world of sport. The national anthem being belted out in the Millennium Stadium (or whatever it is called nowadays), or Cardiff City Stadium for the football, is one of the most spine-tingling experiences you can imagine.
Yet the Welsh cricket fans have nothing to follow…
No. The South Wales based Glamorgan CC does not represent the north and does not count!
Sorry, again, that is not strictly true. Wales have a MINOR Counties side, of which you can tell me precisely 0 names of players who play for that team and you have no interest in their results. Fact.
“How is this relevant to grassroots?” I hear you ask. I shall come to that, but first we need to understand what the pathway is.
Grassroots cricket in Wales has a very strange pathway. Firstly, we are governed by the ECB – the England and Wales Cricket Board.
The Wales is silent in the acronym. As a junior player in Wales, to progress in the game you first start at your club. If you are deemed to have ability, you progress to representative cricket which is Eryri, Gwent or North East Wales for example.
Standout performances in representative cricket could then earn you the honour of playing for Wales at age group level. Pretty straight forward so far.
However, Wales junior cricket finishes at under 17. From there, for 95% of the players it is the end of the journey. The others progress to the Glamorgan County Cricket Club academy to try and forge a career in the professional game.
This means we have a national pathway, feeding into a region of the country. Bizarre.
Add to that the fact North Wales gets a token week of cricket hosting Glamorgan at Colwyn Bay as a way of trying to encourage support for the proud Welsh county and you get very little interest from school children in North Wales for the game.
In football or rugby, children know that if they are good enough, then they can play for Wales. In cricket, it is not so clear.
How many Welsh people support England cricket? It is a team that is supposed to represent the Welsh people but many will refuse to support them as the team uses the England name, flag, colours and anthem.
In a time when cricket clubs in Wales are unforgivingly having to close their doors, are we missing a HUGE trick by not tapping into the fanatical support that the Welsh people show for all of their national teams?
I remember a time when Scotland and the Netherlands national teams were competing in the county one-day competitions.
They did this to gain experience and build a foundation for their national teams. Now they are playing in T20 international tournaments and had the opportunity to qualify for the World Cup that we are watching presently. Can Wales do the same/similar thing?
I have seen Hong Kong play in T20 world cups and the development of cricket in Afghanistan should provide inspiration for any ‘smaller’ nation that you can get to the level of the established nations on the world stage if you are willing to work hard enough.
However, I already know the answer to this from the powers that be in Cricket Wales. “We will lose our funding from the ECB!” That excuse doesn’t wash with me.
I understand that the ECB give funding to clubs throughout England and Wales and there is no reason for that to stop. It doesn’t affect the WRU or the FAW in rugby and football as they find sponsors and partners to help and support. Why can’t we do the same for the cricket? It is not going to happen overnight but is certainly something worth pursuing.
Imagine the number of children we could attract in Welsh clubs, especially the excluded north, if they were able to watch their national team on the international stage. Imagine the crowds filling the SWALEC, an arena that has hosted Ashes cricket previously and World Cup matches currently, to watch Wales.
That would certainly draw spectators from North Wales down to Cardiff. They do it for the rugby and football and would do it for the cricket as well.
It could also have a knock-on effect for Glamorgan, gaining them extra support as fans will want to watch some of Glammys international players at county level as well.
The ECB recently changed their qualification rules regarding players. Wales can use the same principle. Any player born in Wales, or with Welsh parents/grandparents, or a resident of the country for three years, qualifies to represent the Welsh national team.
Who knows, maybe even a 50 or 20 over five nations competition could be born. Similar to that of rugby, getting England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and the Netherlands to play each other every two years is another way to help the smaller nations develop and gain international experience.
So, Wales has a world class facility at the SWALEC Stadium to use. Wales has a junior pathway already in place. Wales have a nation crying out for a national cricket team to follow……
What are they waiting for?